Race Review – Forest & Moors Challenge 2018

I love Dalby Forest. Steve often goes mountain biking there, so I sometimes tag along and have a trot round the trails while he’s riding. However, as I’m a bit navigationally challenged I don’t usually wander very far; so when I heard about the Forest & Moors Challenge, the opportunity to do a longer run at Dalby that’s fully waymarked was too good to pass up!

This event is organised by the Scarborough and Ryedale Mountain Rescue Team, who also provide such great back-up to the Hardmoors trail runs. There’s a choice of distances: 10K, half or full marathon. I was tempted by the full one, but having done an ultra the week before I plumped for the half as my last bit of proper hilly training before the Snowdonia Marathon.

We were so lucky with the weather on the day. Although the first ground frost of the season meant we were de-icing our car windscreen when we set off from York, the day turned out to be perfect running weather – cool and sunny. The race fee also includes entry to Dalby, which normally costs £9, so that’s a great saving and means any non-running friends and family can enjoy the forest facilities at the same time. Obviously Himself brought his bike along! The run starts and finishes at Adderstones Field. There was plenty of parking, sign-on/number pick-up  was quick, and portable loos had been brought in for the event. The half and full marathon started at 9.30, with the 10K at 10. There was no announcement or gun, it was just a case of “Oh right, we’re off then”!

After leaving the field the course went immediately down and then up a steep and quite technical single track through the forest, so there was a bit of congestion; but after that it opened up onto wider paths through the forest and across fields. There was quite a lot of downhill in the first couple of miles, and we soon paid for that with quite a steep uphill hike! From about five miles onwards the course was lovely and undulating, mostly trail but with a bit of Tarmac from time to time – perfect training for me. For a few miles we were out on the open moorland with some spectacular views, especially near the Hole of Horcum. You can check out the route here. It was so well marked there was absolutely no chance of getting lost, even for me!

There was no mandatory kit for the half marathon, so as the weather was fine I was travelling light (i.e. with just an emergency gel!). There were  refreshment points at around 3 miles, halfway and 11 miles, with water, Coke and jelly beans – and I also had a mini gingerbread man at the halfway point! For a couple of miles after the last one the route was a lovely gentle downhill – combined with the gorgeous weather and the fabulous scenery, it was the sort of running that makes you feel lucky and grateful just to be there doing it. Looking at my watch I hoped I might finish in under two and a half hours, but just before the end there were two wicked little climbs, and the total distance was closer to 14 miles, so I just missed out. But I enjoyed it so much I was kind of sorry to stop anyway!

At the finish we all received a very colourful medal, and there were snacks (including big slices of flapjack!) plus hot and cold drinks on offer. I finished in 2:31, 47th out of 96 runners overall, and was pretty happy with that. I thought my legs might be a bit reluctant after the CTS North York Moors last weekend, but they seemed fine. All in all I thought this was a brilliant and great value event. I’ll definitely be back next year if I can – maybe for the full marathon. So now I’m officially tapering for Snowdonia!

Race Review – Endurancelife North York Moors Ultra 2018

I never planned to run an ultra on my birthday. What sort of idiot would do that? Especially one they hadn’t trained for. No, I’d only planned to run a marathon on my birthday! Albeit a hilly trail one. So what happened there then?

I’d had the Endurancelife North York Moors event in my diary for a while when I watched a lot of the Ultra Trail Mont Blanc race weekend live online about a month ago. Obviously it’s very exciting to watch elite athletes like the legendary Kilian Jornet take on the most prestigious race in the trail running calendar; but behind them, and in the shorter races, are thousands of everyday runners taking on the challenge of a lifetime. The shortest of these is the OCC which, at 55K, is a kind of baby UTMB. I had actually qualified for the OCC last year, but having picked up a lingering foot injury at Race to the Stones I didn’t enter the ballot. My friend Mandy took on the OCC this year and convinced me it was fabulous. My four points from RTTS are still valid for this year’s ballot in December, but the amount of points needed to enter has been increased from four to six. Completing the ultra distance at the Endurancelife would give me three UTMB points, so I opted to upgrade at the last minute to hopefully get these in the bag.

Endurancelife is a series of coastal trail events that take place all over the UK. Each has a choice of 10K, half/full marathon or ultra. I entered the North York Moors marathon mainly because I thought it would be a fun thing to do on my birthday, but also good training for the Snowdonia Marathon in October. The event starts and finishes in Ravenscar, which I love, and takes a figure of eight route encompassing part of the Cleveland Way and surrounding area. As the ultra was only 33 miles but had 3 UTMB points I figured there would be lots of up and down, and I wasn’t wrong!

The weather on race day was fabulously sunny and cool – with just a bit of wind to keep things interesting! There was plenty of race parking in a field just by the start area. Not many people were around when I signed on, so it was all nice and quick, and my upgrade to the ultra was sorted with no fuss (although I did email to check it was OK in advance). We were issued with our numbers, ‘dibbers’ attached to wrist bands to time us through checkpoints, a Tribe bar and an Endurancelife t-shirt. The race briefing for the ultra took place at 8 am, then there was a short break before we set off at 8:30. The organisers had twigged that it was my birthday, and the announcer got everyone to sing Happy Birthday to me, which was a lovely touch.

It was pretty cold at the start, so I set off wearing a base layer, t-shirt, lightweight waterproof jacket and gloves. All mandatory kit anyway, so it saved me carrying it! The first part of the course was pretty familiar to me. In the past few months I’ve been one way round it at the Ravenscar Half, and the other way at the Hardmoors Princess! Out along the Cleveland Way towards Cloughton the overall trajectory is down (and very scenic). Needless to say my jacket and gloves came off after a couple of miles, although I kept my base layer on all day. After turning round at the first timing point we headed back towards Ravenscar on the Cinder Track, a former railway line now used as a foot and cycle path – a slight uphill drag all the way back.

 

Just after 12 miles we passed back through Ravenscar and then headed out the other side towards Robin Hood’s Bay. I thought we might just keep along the Cinder Track for this, but we went back onto the Cleveland Way, going up and down hills and steps at various points. By this time the leaders of the marathon, which had started at 9 am, had begun to overtake us. The speed some of them were going up and down those steps was seriously impressive! I felt my progress was steady but OK; I wasn’t running for time. Lots of walkers were out on the path as we approached the village, and most wished us well, which was lovely.

We passed through the second timing point at Robin Hood’s Bay. All the checkpoints en route offered water, jelly babies, crisps, biscuits and pieces of banana. From here we followed a loop out along the Cleveland Way north towards Whitby, then after a couple of miles turned inland, went up a huge hill, and caught up with the Cinder Track again. This took us back down into Robin Hood’s Bay (a lovely gentle descent for a couple of miles) and through the same checkpoint a second time. From here it was a few miles along roads and moorland tracks, through Fylingdales and Fylingthorpe back to Ravenscar – with lots climbing! This second loop of the figure of eight was also the route of the half marathon. A lot of people were feeling the strain of all the hills at this point – me included! But I managed to keep plugging on, with walking breaks on some of the uphill sections. I would have loved a drink of Coke at this stage, but there was only water on offer, to which I added High 5 Zero.

 

The second passing through Ravenscar marked the end of the marathon distance. But for those of us doing the ultra it was back out again to finish by running the 10K course – a shortened version of the first loop we’d done. It was very tempting to stop, passing by the finish area! But on I trotted, thinking of the UTMB points. And actually, the last few miles were a lot less difficult than the second half of the marathon. I saw hardly anyone on this final stretch and began to wonder if I was last! But no – I eventually finished in 7:24, 55th out of only 62 finishers in the ultra – appropriate for my 55th birthday! Interestingly, there were also nine DNFs in the ultra – I think most of them had decided to call it a day at the end of the marathon. I didn’t mind being nearly last as I was the oldest woman in the race – and the points were in the bag!

 

The ending was fairly low key as most other runners had finished and gone home. There had been 77 entries in the 10K, 167 in the half marathon and 66 in the full one, so not massive numbers – although the event was said to be sold out. There was some nice bling, and overall I really enjoyed the event and thought it was well organised. The signage around the route was excellent – it would have been impossible to get lost, even for me! The only small gripe I have is that it would have been nice to see some slightly more calorific snacks at the check points (e.g. peanuts) and maybe some Coke for a bit of a sugar/caffeine boost. We were warned in the pre-race blurb that snacks wouldn’t be plentiful, but at £55 for the marathon entry I don’t think a bit more refreshment would be too much to ask. Other than that I thought this was a great event and would highly recommend it.

The pre-race blurb also stated that there were prizes for each age group category, including V55, so I’m expecting to hear from the organisers soon; because surely if I was the only category entry in the ultra I must also be the winner, no?!

Autumn Running Plans

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I love running in the autumn! As well as the best kind of running weather on a good day (sunny and cool), autumn has loads of great events on the calendar – and all those crispy leaves to kick through! It’s also the cyclocross season for my husband, and I love supporting him on pit duty at these races, which are really exciting.

My own autumn events started on 1st September with the Hardmoors Princess Challenge. This was a fun event and I really enjoyed it, even though I took a wrong turn at one point! Despite chip timing there are still no official results for this nearly four weeks later. I’m not sure why, but I’m not really bothered as I just did this one for training purposes.

About a week after the Princess I came down with a cold, as almost everyone seems to at this time of year. I always go by the above/below the neck rule when considering whether to run or not, and as I felt achy I was sensible and rested for a week. This interfered with my planned training for the Snowdonia Marathon, but I think if you try to push on when you’re ill it just takes you longer to get better. Your body can’t fight germs and recover from a two or three hour run at the same time!

In the middle of September I started training to be a sports massage therapist at York College. This is something I’ve wanted to do for years, but haven’t really had the opportunity until now. We’re only a couple of weeks in at the moment, but I’m really enjoying it. With working full time and marathon training it’s a challenge to fit everything in, and I’ve had to get a bit more organised, especially with regard to food preparation, which is obviously vital.

This Saturday is my 55th birthday (eek) and I’m celebrating/blanking it out by running at the Endurancelife North York Moors event – back at beautiful Ravenscar, which is fast becoming my second home! I originally signed up for the marathon distance, but am now planning to switch to the ultra on the day, as it’s only a few more miles and carries three UTMB points. My friend Mandy ran the OCC (baby UTMB) this year and it looked amazing, so I’m trying to amass enough qualification points to enter the ballot for next year.

 

I need six points, and  have four from last year’s Race to the Stones that would count, but still need to collect another two by the end of December. The Endurancelife ultra would do that nicely, and the weather forecast looks perfect too. Whether I’ll have any energy left for birthday celebrations in the evening remains to be seen!

On the first weekend in October I’m taking part in the Forest and Moors run at Dalby Forest. This event, organised by the fab Scarborough and Ryedale Mountain Rescue Team, has a choice of distances. I’m doing the half marathon here as part of my taper for Snowdonia; I figure the more hills I can pack in before then the better! I think spaces are still available in this if anyone else fancies it (although you can’t enter on the day).

It’s then three weeks until my big autumn event, Snowdonia! I’ve heard so many good things about this marathon I’m really looking forward to it. It’s a road race, but hilly, so I know I’m not on for a PB, but apparently the scenery and atmosphere are amazing. It’s sold out, but lots of people seem to be selling places on the event’s Facebook page, and official transfers are possible until 30th September, so it may still be possible to get in.

Earlier in the year I thought I might have a final go at trying for a sub 50 minute 10K this autumn – maybe at the Yorkshire Coast 10K in Scarborough or the Leeds Abbey Dash – but I don’t really think I’m up to that at the moment. I think I’ve done too much trail running this year to go for faster times on the road. Or maybe I’m just getting too old to go any faster! So that’s something I’ve put on the back burner for now and might reconsider in the spring. Speaking of spring, I applied for a place in the Tokyo Marathon, but wasn’t successful in the ballot, so may do a different road marathon then – Edinburgh is currently looking to be the favourite. I keep saying I won’t do another road marathon and then getting tempted back!

The only other event I currently have booked in for this year is the Hardmoors Roseberry at the beginning of December. I’ve entered the half, but might upgrade to the full marathon depending on how I feel nearer the time, as these are great training events. But you never know, I may squeeze in a couple more things before Christmas!

What events or training do you have planned for the autumn? I’d love to know.

 

 

 

Race Review Race for Life York 2018

Race for Life came to York last weekend as was as epic as ever! There’s no other event quite like it. I’ve taken part as both a runner and a marshal over the years and loved seeing it from both sides. Rather than reviewing it myself again I thought it might be more interesting to gather some thoughts from a few of my friends who took part this year. I think they prove that Race for Life is for everyone, no matter what their age, ability or pace.

Rachael

“I did the event as a motivator for exercising, to raise money for charity and to set an example to my kids. I love the way the event brings lots of different women together for the same cause, and the atmosphere on the day is so supportive and encouraging. It doesn’t matter how fast you do it or if you walk it all. I went with the run some/walk some approach!”

 

Hannah

“I have run Race for Life for many years in memory of my beloved Granddad. This year I walked it with my daughter of 15 weeks with friends and their children. I would like her to be part of my fundraising ways. We loved the atmosphere, and of course dressing up in pink!”

Rachel

“I had never entered a Race for Life before so was excited to see what they were all about. It was lovely to see women of all ages and abilities come together to help beat cancer sooner. It was a really fun day with a lot of fancy dress. When you read the messages on the back of people’s tops you realise the importance of events such as these. It was a great day to be part of!”

Rachel is a really experienced runner and has a great running blog, Run With Rachel.  – check it out here.

 

Michelle

“I took part because I’m a beginner runner and am trying to better my performance in terms of speed, distance, pacing etc. I’ve found running hash helped with my asthma, stress and general wellbeing, and hope to keep at it. I liked that there was a very social atmosphere. Total strangers were talking to each other before and during the race. There were times when it was clear that people had ‘hit the wall’ or were just struggling a bit, myself included. But total strangers were stopping to say to each other “Are you OK?”. They weren’t worried about times or getting a PB. I slowed down myself to pace and encourage a lady who was struggling. She’d not run 10K before and had hit the wall at the 9K marker. I also loved that even when people looked totally beat they were still smiling!”

Race for Life events take place all over the country; see here for details.

Hope to see some of you at Race for Life in York next year!

Angela

Race Review – Hardmoors Princess Challenge 2018

As you’ll know if you’re a regular reader here, I’m a big fan of Hardmoors running events. The Princess Challenge isn’t a Hardmoors race as such (in as much as it isn’t organised by Hardmoors legends Jon and Shirley Steele), but is organised by a lovely visually-impaired runner and all-round good egg called Kelly Jackson. It’s a really fun occasion when everyone is encouraged to dress up to run (even the men) and many people get princessed to the max! I first became aware of it when last year’s event took place and thought it looked fab.

The Princess Challenge offers a choice of three distances: the Short & Sweet (8.5 miles), the One in the Middle (17.5 miles) and the Ultra (31 miles). As my Snowdonia Marathon training plan had my long run at 17 miles that weekend, the One in the Middle was the obvious route to try. All distances start and finish at the village hall in Ravenscar and, like the Ravenscar Half, the Princess is supported by, and in aid of, the Scarborough and Ryedale Mountain Rescue Team, who provide so much essential support at Hardmoors races.

Obviously an important part of my race preparation was planning my outfit! Most princesses were plumping for pink, but I wanted something that would match my running kit, so ordered a turquoise tutu costing £5 from Ebay and also managed to acquire an impressive plastic tiara with blue stones from Boyes for a bargain £1.49. I imagined both would become uncomfortably annoying at some point along the way, but could stuff them in my Camelbak when they did!

The weather on race day was gorgeous; bright and sunny with a refreshing sea breeze to keep things cool enough to enjoy. Kit check and number/chip pick-up was quick and efficient, although I had a bit of a panic when I realised I’d left my whistle attached to my Camelbak bladder at home. Luckily a lovely lady called Lauren was able to lend me a spare one. Panic over! Kit checks are very strict at Hardmoors events, and rightly so; although I did wonder if a head torch was really necessary for a 17 mile race in August. The Ultra and the One in the Middle started at 9.15, with the Short & Sweet setting off at 10 am. The Ultra and the OITM both consisted of figure of eight routes, passing back through Ravenscar in the middle, while the S&S was a circular route out to Robin Hood’s Bay and back.

We set off along the Cleveland way in the direction of Scarborough. The conditions were so perfect it was an absolute joy to be running. Unlike the Hardmoors marathon series, the Princess events aren’t fully marked or taped, but there were some marshals along the way, and princessy pink tape was placed at strategic points. The first part of the course was gently undulating along the coast, with the first checkpoint after about four miles. There were three checkpoints en route (more on the ultra), all well stocked with water, fizzy drinks and sweets. The lovely marshals helped us all to top up our bottles. At Hayburn Wyke the course looped back to Ravenscar along the cinder track, a former railway line that’s now a bike and footpath. This was mostly a slight incline, but nothing that wasn’t runnable.

At the halfway point we passed back through Ravenscar, and I took advantage of this to visit the portable loos outside the village hall – what a mid-race luxury! The route then went out along the cinder track on the other side of the village, towards Robin Hood’s Bay – in effect following the Short & Sweet circuit. This was a brilliant section; a gentle downhill with fabulous coastal views for pretty much five miles – the sort of running you dream about! I chatted to various people along the way and had a great time. My tutu and tiara turned out to be surprisingly comfortable and it was easy to forget I was wearing them. Sometimes I wondered why other path users were smiling at all the runners, then I’d suddenly remember we were princesses! Unfortunately on a circular route, what goes down must also go up, so from Robin Hood’s Bay the route was pretty much uphill all the way back to Ravenscar! Some of this was up steps, which I quite like because I think you seem to gain height more easily and quickly this way than walking up an incline.

The sea views were still amazing though, and there was lots of friendly camaraderie along the way. However, a couple of miles from the finish I found myself alone when I came to a junction in the path where the Cleveland Way went off to the left. Going straight on seemed a more direct way back to Ravenscar to me, but I’d asked a marshal at the Robin Hood’s Bay checkpoint if we just followed the Cleveland Way all the way to the end and he told me we did; so I merrily climbed over a stile and trotted off to the left across a grassy field. Just as I got to the other side I heard voices behind me, and saw two girls waving and shouting at me “You’ve gone the wrong way”! So back I went, very grateful that they’d spotted me. My instincts had been right after all, which is most unusual, as I’m usually pretty navigationally challenged. I think my little detour added over half a mile to the distance, but as I was just using this event as a training exercise I wasn’t really bothered.

After a few miles of climbing it was good to get to the end. The best thing about the Princess is the glitzy finisher’s medal and t-shirt – both are super sparkly!

The post-race refreshments were pretty good too, with chip butties, hot drinks and masses of cake available in the village hall. We also got a goody bag of sweeties!

I’m not sure what my official time was, but I timed myself at around 3:45. No results seem to be available yet, which seems a bit odd over a week later, as we were all wearing timing chips. But all in all the Princess was a top day out, and I’ll definitely come back next year if I can. I’m looking forward to returning to Ravenscar later this month for the North York Moors edition of the Endurancelife Coastal Trail Series. I’m doing the marathon distance and it’s on my birthday, so what better excuse to eat All The Cake!